Tim Cook on Human Rights and Dignity

In November 2013, Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences bestowed the IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award on Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Computer. His acceptance speech is stunning.

“Never allow the majority to limit the rights of the minority. Never allow people who fear anyone different from themselves to limit others’ human rights or deny others’ human dignity.”

He talks about gay rights, discrimination, human dignity and human rights in a beautiful and passionate way.

Not only does he use an example, close to our heart at Square Pegs, of an autistic boy finding his voice through technology, but he makes this important point about the purpose of great products:

“We design our products so they surprise and delight everyone who uses them. And we never, never ever analyze the return on investment. We do it because it is just and right, and that is what respect for human dignity requires, and it is a part of Apple that I am especially proud of.”

This is the kind of leadership technology companies need. This is why many of us got into technology in the first place — to change lives.

Bravo, Mr. Cook.

Internet Identity Workshop #16

If you are interested in identity, privacy and technology, get your tickets now for the Internet Identity Conference, May 7th to 9th in Mountain View, California. Early bird tickets are available until March 18th.

IIW is one of my favorite conferences. The “<a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference”>unconference” format makes it an active, participatory event and many of the attendees are the people who are actually implementing this stuff. The conversations range from deep technical arguments on code and implementations to philosophical discussions about identity and pseudonymity.

Extra points if you spot me in the video:

Emotional Connection — Facebook and Instagram

People love photos. They always have. It’s the crappy snapshot of you and your sister at 3 and 5 playing on the new swing set in the backyard that is your favorite. It’s not the technical quality of that photo that makes it special. It’s the emotional connection.  The brilliance of Instagram isn’t just about 30M users taking photos. It’s the emotional connections they are making. Instagram figured out that people like their photos, they like to share them, and they like them to be better photos. So they made it very easy to take a photo, crop it and try a filter or two before sharing it — all from your phone in a few seconds. Instant emotional connection. Purchasing Instagram is a signal that Facebook understands that Instagram has something that they need.

Facebook is a dominant force in the way people connect on the Internet and have made it possible for millions of people to share their thoughts and lives. But Facebook’s position at the top is likely only temporary. Like Microsoft and AOL they will probably be around for many years, but they won’t be the juggernaut that they are now.  Facebook and Google both share this problem — both struggle to “get” emotional connection.

Apple gets emotional connection. They don’t know how to do web-based services, or at least somehow don’t put the care into them that they do into their devices, so they haven’t cracked the “Social Web” nut. But their computers and iOS devices have an amazing emotional connection. 6 years ago, who would have said that they LOVE their cell phone? How many non-nerds would have said that they LOVE their laptop? Who but a nerd would have even used a tablet before Apple invented iPad?

I think Mark Zuckerberg understands all this.  Maybe not — maybe he just saw 30 million users and crazy growth and an engaged community and said “that should be part of Facebook.”  But I think it more likely that he said, “These people really get this emotional connection stuff, and we need more of that.”

The Internet Is Worth Protecting

I’ve been on the internet more than half my life. I consider myself a digital native.

Today many people are protesting the SOPA and Protect IP Act legislation that threatens the internet. This threat is real, as this legislation breaks some fundamental things about how the internet works. If you are interested in the technical details and arguments against this legislation, many have written about them. Here’s an interview with my friend Elliot Noss on CBC Radio talking about why his business has “gone dark” today.

This is a big issue, so I’m going to share some of my thoughts on why the internet is so important.

 

The Internet Is Made of People

From my early days on “Usenet”, what drew me was real people and their ideas. Usenet was a big distributed forum for people to talk about subjects ranging from computers (comp.sys.sgi) to rock climbing (rec.climbing) the game of go (rec.games.go). People on computers all over the world, connected on the internet and with dial-up UUCP connections, would talk about these topics, and it fascinated me. There were THOUSANDS of people out there!

Fast-forward to the early-90’s and this new thing called “The World-Wide Web” came along. I was at SGI when I first saw it, on an Irix machine running a browser built by some guys at a university. The Web quickly grew so big that whole businesses were created just to index it all.

The internet grew all sorts of businesses, many of them crazy. But for me, it was still about people. When I came to Silicon Valley many years ago, I knew I was going to be surrounded by brilliant people. Now, with the internet I can find them wherever they are… no matter where I am — The people AND their ideas.

The Internet is Made of Ideas

My internet wanderings have always followed my interests. I found people out there talking about topics that interested me. It was wonderful! But no group of people ever stays “on topic”, so over time you get to know people and understand their ideas about the world. Exposure to new and different ideas makes your world bigger and richer.

My wife an I are aficionados of “Podcasts”. They are really just radio or TV shows, but packaged for the internet. But you don’t just watch what’s on, like we did back when there were just three channels on the TV. You get to pick! We love to listen to smart people talk about interesting ideas, so we listen to TEDTalks. I like computers and tech, so I listen to shows from the TWiT network and 5by5, and we both love good story telling, so we listen to The Moth and This American Life.

All over the world there are people with something to say. More than any other invention, the internet allows people with ideas to be heard; to spread their ideas. I believe this will make the world a better place.

Because…

 

The Internet is What We Make it

What we do, say, and look at on the internet makes it become what it will be.

Let’s use Google Search as an example. Google’s original search algorithms considered page linking structure as an indicator of value and intent. It was a way of measuring what people thought and what they valued. Google’s PageRank algorithm also considered that a link from a page with a high PageRank conveyed more PageRank forward to the linked page.

a page can have a high PageRank if there are many pages that point to it, or if there are some pages that point to it and have a high PageRank

http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html – Brin & Page,

In the intervening years, the Google algorithms have been improved and changed. Many of the changes are intended to reduce the influence of certain cynical forms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that seek to raise search listings artificially. Notably, the Google Panda update use machine learning algorithms to detect non-useful sites and reduce their search ranking.

At its best, SEO is about optimizing websites so that they are easy for search engines like Google to catalog and rank, and so that they earn the strong ranking and visibility they deserve. But there is a lot of SEO that is really just tricks to try to get attention. When the search engines fight back, the internet gets better. They all try. And when people choose quality content over link farms, they can succeed.

Quality content comes from real people. Whether they are making a funny cat video or writing an important essay, real people are behind the best on the internet.

 

The  Internet is Important, But…

What is really important is US. You and Me. The ideas we share, the things that make us laugh, cry, and think. For this, the internet is just a medium. But it’s a medium that connects us throughout the world in a new way, spreading ideas and culture and making the world a better place. (Yes, that’s a long video, but Joi’s talk is worth every minute.)

The internet is under attack by corporations that are trying to protect their failing business models. They want you to believe that the internet is a problem to be fixed. Don’t believe them.

The internet is for making people heard, for allowing us to connect to one another. Don’t let the non-people take that away from us.

 

 

IIW Fascinates Me

Since the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW11) last week, I’ve been reflecting on how far we’ve come – and how far we still have to go.

My Google ID, Yahoo ID, Facebook ID, and even my own domain’s OpenID can all be used to create and maintain accounts around the internet. Many services also have connections between them, allowing my Flickr photos to show up on Facebook and Google Buzz and making every post to my blog show up as a tweet @dariusdunlap.

Unfortunately, this is still all too complicated, but it is getting better all the time. Many people are working on the problems, and at IIW they are all sharing results, ideas, and making new plans. For example, the Google security team presented their excellent research on user interface for shared IDs and subsequently released impressive documentation of their work.

Today (well, yesterday if you are living in Europe like me) Google released a demo site – it is a store – and accompanying material like videos, tutorials, and best practices that provide detailed explanations on how to become a relying party, match an existing user base with OpenID, and much more.  Eric Sachs, product manager, Google Security, announced this on the OpenID mailing list today.

From: Google Releases Impressive Documentation of OpenID Implementation | Not So Relevant

?Behind all this are serious concerns about privacy and data ownership. The kerfuffle between Google and Facebook over contact data sharing is just one very visible corner of this iceberg. Although Facebook is more open than ever, their stance is more than a little disingenuous.

Suffice to say, you cannot bring your Facebook contacts into Gmail, as you can with Yahoo and Microsoft. Thus, the issue clearly isn’t that Facebook doesn’t think you have the right to mass export emails. It seems that Facebook simply doesn’t want you to mass export them into Google — not unless, I suppose, it gets a business deal with Google. And if it doesn’t want to do a deal, then those emails don’t get to go. They aren’t yours. They belong to Facebook, and can only be exported to the business partners that Facebook agrees with.

From: ?Facebook: You’ve No Right To Export Email Addresses (Unless It’s To Yahoo & Microsoft)

Yes, Facebook is more open than ever. But will they be able to navigate through their dominant position to become a truly open partner, or will they fade like so many walled gardens before?

Walled garden
?Walled Garden by recursion_see_recursion on flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Why does this all matter?

The creativity, expression, and commerce the internet enables has already changed our lives. Although some Americans seem to believe they don’t need it, there is no doubt that it has transformed our society and will continue to for many years.

The internet works because it is an open platform. Nobody has to ask permission to create the next Facebook, the next Google or Yahoo!, or (more likely) something completely new. The people and organizations at IIW are working together to define how the internet handles identity and the related aspects of security and data ownership, including links between people and connections between services. All the biggest organizations are represented, including Facebook and Google.

This underlying open platform for identity and control of personal information is still being formed. There is much to be done before this all “just works” the way email does – but that’s exactly what needs to happen.

 

Media disruption – it’s all about the audience

Another Must-read from Om Malik:

For the media industry  (which is video, music and print), there has been one more, and perhaps the farthest-reaching, failure: the inability of the folks to grok that today’s audience is not tomorrow’s audience. It goes without saying there’s a whole generation of folk that has either grown up, or are growing up, on the Internet. Their consumption and online behavior is going to be predicated on a distribution medium whose basic premise is abundance. They will find, curate and consume on their own terms, on their own choice of screens and on their own time.

Generation D, where D is for disruption, is adapted to route around the old models: old models controlled by old men. My friend Pip Coburn believes that “routing around these old models” offers new opportunities. There’s a reason why IAC is, and will always remain, a reflection in a dirty pond –- a collection of properties that is unable to understand the new Internet people. If they don’t, someone else will, and they will become the next Ev Williams or Mark Zuckerberg.

Excerpt from: There is No New Media: It’s All New Consumption: Tech News «

 

We can think of this as “skate to where the audience will be.”

🙂

I Shared What?!?

This is a sophisticated crowd at the Internet Identity Workshop, full of people who are very aware of the issues around identity, security, and privacy.

Joe Andrieu is showing his brilliant and simple tool “I Shared What?!?”. Login at http://isharedwhat.com/ and see what gets shared with apps on Facebook when you allow them access to your account. Just go through the signup and permission process as with any faceook app, and then use the tabs on the right side to see all the information you’ve shared. You can even change the sharing permissions and explore the changes.

Here’s what it looks like… (I chopped off all the juicy stuff below. Go look at your own!)

ISharedWhat-dariusdunlap.jpg

 

 

Why politics is important…

Politics can make a difference. And it all starts with ideas. Some ideas are more universal and meaningful than others.

My children are the center of my world—and when I think about the issues facing our nation right now, I think about what that means for our girls, and the world that we’re leaving for them and all of our children. There is so much at stake—this is about more than just politics—it’s about whether or not we as a people can move forward through times of challenge, and cynicism, and frustration. And use the opportunity we’ve been given to build better communities and to build a better country.

Excerpt from: Organizing for America | Erica Sagrans’s Blog: Michelle Obama: “This isn’t about politics”

We’ve accomplished a lot, but the job is clearly not done. ?So when voting tomorrow, think about the opportunity we have to make a lasting difference, not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren.

We have good reasons to be angry

These are scary times, there is no doubt. but I hope in the end people focus on what we can accomplish, not just what we fear. Bill Clinton recently put it well…

Clinton exhorted the crowd to “keep on being mad. But concentrate your anger so that it clarifies your judgment instead of clouding it. . . . The worst thing you can do right now is bring back the shovel brigade to start digging the hole again.”

Excerpt from: Former president Clinton on mission to rescue Democratic Party in fall elections

 

I happen to agree with President Clinton about the disaster that is modern Republican policy. But wherever you stand on the various issues, let’s make this election about solutions, not just anger and frustration.